Two Super Bowl Players Maybe Risking Their Lives This Sunday

Dave Masko's picture

Eugene, Oregon is a place that puts the health of football players above the game itself at a time when Super Bowl quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger may be risking their lives by playing in Sunday’s big game in the wake of two and possibly three major concussions this season.

Moreover, it's known that many professional players log as many as 15 or more concussions during their pro careers. And, that does not include concussions during their college and high school years.

Rodgers is set to start as the Green Bay Packers quarterback against Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Roethlisberger in Sunday’s Super Bowl game. While there are back-up quarterbacks that can fill in for Rodgers and Roethlisberger, both players will forgo their personal safety and health for the sake of their team, Super Bowl glory and millions awaiting the winners.

Concussions viewed as most serious by fans

Still, some fans who have empathy for the players as human beings and not someone in uniform that you can route for.

“It really changes the way you view the game when you think a player with even one concussion could have long-term effects such as permanent headaches, blurred vision, dementia, Alzheimer’s and even life threatening brain damage. Look, you can die on the field and that’s much more serious than who wins a football game,” explains Jason Erickson who’s a former high school football coach and parent of an Oregon Ducks player.

Erickson points to something he and other Eugene parents have dubbed “concussion consciousness,” that refers to “an understanding that getting one’s bell rung on the football field is not a joke, some sort test of toughness or something to be laughed off. It’s deadly serious if you care about someone who suffers a concussion.”

At the same time, Erickson and other parents of high school and college football players recently attended a concussion consciousness workshop at the famed Slocum Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Eugene.

“Slocum has become one of the nation’s leaders in awareness about concussions,” adds Erickson who also noted that that prior to his son’s brain injury, due to a football related concussion, “I never thought much about it.”

According to a Slocum Center fact sheet, “A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that interferes with normal brain function. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 300,000 sports concussions among children and adolescents each year in the United States. It is usually caused by a blow to the head, but may occur with a whiplash injury, or when the head strikes the ground. Only about 5-10% of people are knocked unconscious with a concussion. Most are confused, dazed, or complain of a headache. It can be fatal.”

At the same time, the University of Oregon director of athletic medicine, Dr. Greg Skaggs has noted during numerous media interviews that deadly serious for the Ducks football team and they take precautions to include benching a player who’s suffering from a concussion.

However, the quandary that’s in the spotlight with Sunday’s Super Bowl game -- that features two NFL players who have suffered numerous concussions – is when to stop a someone from playing the game, and ultimately save their lives.

“It’s really hard to judge the severity until symptoms are gone, because it’s completely unpredictable how long symptoms will last. We see some kids bounce back a lot quicker than other kids, and we’ll see some kids never recover. You just have to take it one day at a time,” explained Skaggs after a Duck player suffered a massive concussion this past season.

Concussions can kill, harm for life

Neurologists point to a concussion as a “violent shaking that causes the brain cells to become depolarized and fire all their neurotransmitters at once in an unhealthy cascade, flooding the brain with chemicals and deadening certain receptors linked to learning and memory. The results often include confusion, blurred vision, memory loss, nausea and, sometimes, unconsciousness.”

Neurologists also say once a person suffers a concussion, “he is as much as four times more likely to sustain a second one. Moreover, after several concussions, it takes less of a blow to cause the injury and requires more time to recover.”

An NFL study of more than 1,000 football players found 60 to 70 percent had suffered at least one major concussion in their careers, and 26 percent had had three or more. Those who had concussions reported serious memory problems, as well as issues with concentration, speech, headaches and a host of serious neurological problems.

At the same time, more than 50 high school football players have been killed or sustained serious head injuries after a concussion during the past 10 years. This research, requested by Congress, also looked at some 1.2 million teens that play high school or college football and are at risk for concussions.

Concussions end careers and lives

It’s now come to light that NFL players who’ve suffered from concussions later died early, suffered from mental health problems and even committed suicide. NFL player Andre Waters, who committed suicide in 2006, had numerous concussions during his pro career. In fact, Waters’ family have allowed doctors to study his brain after finding out that he had 15 concussions during his career.

In just one season, Green Bay's Rodgers got two concussions and then denied he got another on the helmet-rattling hit in the NFC championship game that earned Chicago Bears defensive lineman Julius Peppers a $10,000 fine.

In turn, Pittsburgh's Roethlisberger missed most of last season with a head injury from both concussions and a motor cycle accident that nearly killed him when he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Brett Favre’s concussion has left him with no feeling in one arm, continued headaches and a view that “I should be thinking about my future,” as the NFL’s iron man prepares to end his career due to both recent and previous head injuries that also plague hundreds of high school and college players who are dealing with concussions.

The issue is simple. There’s no football helmet, mode of play or technology that can stop concussions that scramble and irreversibly damage the brain, leaving football players of all ages at risk for a host of horrible brain maladies both now and in later life.

During a recent Monday night game, Favre stayed motionless for a few seconds before slowly rising. Favre later noted that he was unconscious for a period of time after Bears defensive end Corey Wootton slammed him to the turf, resulting in a major concussion.

Thus, it’s no big surprise that a 2007 study conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that of 595 retired NFL players who recalled sustaining three or more concussions on the football field, more than 20 percent said they have been found to have major depression.

In turn, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said: “We don’t allow people to play games with concussions.”

Goodell also answered questions about “taking drastic measures to prevent concussions” in the forthcoming 2011/12 season by turning the game into a sort of flag football and soccer designed game that limits life threatening concussions.

At the same time, there’s been silence on the subject of concussions during recent network football games due to a perceived “buzz kill,” at a time when the playoffs are set to begin and a lot of money is to be made by both NFL teams and TV networks.

Comments

The NFL has clamped down hard on injuries, especially head injuries, more so, to arguably the most important position on the team; quarterback. To say they are risking their lives is an overt exaggeration, defrauds the story and distracts the reader from the realistic risk to all football players... Football is indeed a violent sport, however, technology has drastically improved protection and drastically reduced player injury.

Submitted by Dave Masko on
As a former football player myself, I appreciate the comment. However, this is a new age and with NFL players logging 15 or more concussions during just their pro careers -- not to mention all the concussions suffered during college and high school -- there's no technology or equipment or method of play that can protect a player's brain from massive injury that could kill. This is a sad fact of the game.

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